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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

58                             THE GAY GENIUS

because it is simple in language and typical of Su Tungpo's character,
happiest when he was sharing the happiness of the common people.

A sequel to this episode was that the god on the Taipo Mountain
was promoted and appointed a duke by the Emperor. Both Su and
Sung went up again to the mountain on this occasion and offered thei*
thanks and their congratulations. In July of the following year there
was another drought, but this time the prayer was not answered. Dis-
appointed, Su Tungpo went to Panchi to pray to the spirit of a famous
man, Chiang Taikung, who is still a very popular god among the
common people of China today. He had been a great and wise old
man, living in the twelfth century B.C., who, in legend, was reputed to
have fished with a hook and line three feet above the water. What the
beautiful legend seems to say is that Chiang was a kind and fair person,
and if a fish jumped three feet out of the water to be caught by his,
hook, it was the fish's own fault.

There is no record whether the prayer to Chiang Taikung was
answered. JBut that is no reason for believers in any god, whether it
be Buddha or a magic old stump, to doubt the efficacy of prayer. It
can never be proved that prayer is not efficacious because, according
to Buddhist teachings, something can always be wrong with the man
saying the prayer, usually his lack of complete faith. All gods must
answer prayers, or humanity would not be interested in them. Besides,
prayer is based upon one of the deepest instincts in man. To pray, or
to have the attitude of prayer, is, after all, the important thing; whether
it is answered or not is secondary.

Anyway, Su Tungpo, as a magistrate in different districts, continued
to pray for rain whenever the occasion required it. He knew he was
doing the right thing. He believed in the essential justice of the Creator
and in His reasonableness. Since he believed in the existence of spirits,
he could not but believe also that a spirit would do its best to help
relieve suffering and bring happiness and justice into human life. For
if reasonableness is the highest human attribute, surely God must be
reasonable too, and open to -persuasion and a fair argument. But in
some of his later memorandums on natural calamities, Su pointed out
also, in the orthodox Chinese fashion, that prayers were useless unless
at the same time the government gave the people relief from its own
oppressive measures. Such is the Chinese religion of common-sense
which made a writer in the earliest classic say: "Consult the oracles
after you have made up your mind what to do." After knowing all
the stupid things the Chinese have done, such sayings as this restore
my confidence that the Chinese are, after all, truly great thinkers.

I am almost tempted to say that the spirit of Su Tungpo represents
the Element of Fire, for all his life he was fighting floods and drought
and was always preoccupied with a city's water supply and with canal